Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A visit to the Salton Sea

Here it is, the last day of July. Only 10 more days until we close on our house! I can't wait to finally have a chance to settle in for good somewhere. In the meantime, my desire to create art - and as you may have noticed - write in my blog have dwindled down to almost nothing. I apologize! It will get better very soon.

For the first topic today, I wanted to mention Cy Twombly, one of my favorite living painters. For those of you who haven't heard about the recent incident, a woman in France KISSED one of his paintings (valued at $2 million!) and left red lipstick marks on the white part of the canvas. After seeing these gorgeous paintings of Mr. Twombly's, here, I can sympathize her plight. However, I doubt that I would have the audacity to perform such an ignorant stunt. As an artist seeking a "break" in the art world myself, I have to wonder, was her stunt merely a way to launch herself into the eyes of the public? (She is herself an artist) There is that saying "there's no such thing as bad press". Hmmm... Even still, if that were in fact the case, it can only be viewed as an act of desperation in the long run. It did make me wonder!

Matthias had a birthday yesterday, and we decided to take a little road trip to the Salton Sea. Neither one of us had ever been there before, and we thought we could take the dog, and let him enjoy some of his favorite "chase the ball into water" pasttime. It was another scorching day in the desert - topping off at a toasty 110 F - and it seemed like a good plan. It looked pretty good when we first got there. However, Matthias opened up the car door, and the first thing I noticed was the 50 flies that entered the car. I got out (more flies) and was assaulted by a powerful, eggy, fishy kind of stench. There was trash along the edge of the lake, and the beach was a deep bed of what looked like tiny barnacle shells. It smelled BAD. Pono's first reaction was to ROLL in the stinky beach. He would not go in the water. We drove around the Sea (lake, whatever you call it) and thought another spot might be more inviting. This time, the shoreline was a little more appealing at first glance (no trash or barnacle shells) but the edges of the shore were lined with two layers of dead and rotting fish carcasses. YUCK!!! We didn't know anything about the Salton Sea, but of course our adventure lead us to do some googling.

Apparently, it was formed in 1907 when the Colorado River flooded, bursting through some irrigation channels. It filled up the basin and became the Salton Sea. Since the main outlet for the Sea is evaporation, it is saltier than the ocean. It is plagued with massive die-offs of fish and birds, despite being a major wildlife refuge. You can read more about it on the link above. Let's just say, I won't be bringing visitors there. It's too bad, because it LOOKS like it would be really nice. I can see why most of the attempts at business ended up resembling these lonely places. The stench alone would drive me insane. Never mind the infestation of flies...

I am going to extend my notecard giveaway for one more week. If any of you are just reading about this, I have 7 notecards listed for sale on my etsy site. If you would like to have one all of your very own (for FREE!), all you have to do is visit my etsy site, choose the card you'd most like to have, and send me a "conversation" (click "contact karine swenson") with the card you want and your address. I will happily send a card off to you. Happy Christmas in July (soon August)! This free giveaway will end on August 7th. Thanks for visiting my blog!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Life gets in the way of art

I guess it is harder to post frequently in the summer! I have been reading 3 different books, and one that I am enjoying immensely is called Pictures of Nothing by Kirk Varnedoe. Thanks to my dad for giving me this book! If any of you are interested in abstract art out there, I highly recommend this book. He talks about abstract art since Jackson Pollack, and gives it a validation that I find refreshing. Even those of you who are naysayers of abstract art might enjoy reading this book. Kirk Varnedoe is the former chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art. Not "light reading" by any means, be forwarned.

I am not doing much in the way of art. With most of my brushes and paint in boxes, I am finding it difficult to open up more boxes and begin a new painting. We will be moving in about 2 weeks, so it would be unwise for me to do so, at this point. I am finding it frustrating, since I am feeling like I want to paint, but I know it will go quickly. The good thing is that once we are moved into the new place, I know I will be so anxious to paint that I should have no trouble at all. I have been focusing much more on my promotional materials during this transitional time, and I have listed a whole bunch of new art on my etsy site. I will be adding new work on etsy at least every weekend, and it is all art for under $500 at this point in time.

I have decided to give a little gift to all of those who regularly read my blog. I have some notecards with reproductions of my art listed on my etsy site. I would like you to have one! There are seven different greeting cards you can chose from. Simply go to my etsy site, choose the one you would most like to have, and then "convo", or contact me via etsy with the card you want and your address - where I can send the card. Think of it as Christmas in July, and thank you for reading my blog! Here is one of the cards I am giving away.
This offer will last until the end of July, or once I run out of cards, whichever comes first.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


There's a first for everything. My trip to Reno was coming to a close yesterday morning, when Pono and I went for a nice hike up the hillside near Eva and Heinz's house. It was a lovely morning, and it felt great to get my blood pumping. We hiked to a high point from which we could look down on their house. I snapped a few photos, intending to share them with all of you blog readers. Little did I know how much these photos would end up meaning to me after the day was finished.

Eva and I did a bit of shopping after the hike. We came back to the house for lunch, and shortly after we finished, at about 2:30, their neighbor called to tell us that a small fire had started across the ravine from our houses. (Pono and I had hiked down and then up that very ravine just a few hours before.) We went over to her house to gawk at the fire, and we all were amazed at how quickly it climbed up the hillside. (The neighbor had already called the fire department.) It seemed like forever before we saw any signs of fire fighters, but I am sure they came as quickly as they could. The speed at which the fire progressed seemed inconceivable!

At some point, I decided to walk across the cul de sac to get my camera and check on Pono. Good thing I did. The smoke had become thick, and Pono was pretty freaked out by the smell. I shut all the windows in the house, grabbed my camera (after consoling the despairing dog) and went back to take some photos. It wasn't long before planes were arriving, zooming in and out of the smoke filled area, dumping the red flame retardant on the fire. Most of these photos were taken from the front step of Eva and Heinz's house. You can see how close it is. The sky was filled with smoke and ash. It was so thick, that even the sun became almost obliterated.

Pretty soon, we were seeing police and firetrucks. One policeman told Eva to get a bag packed and ready, just in case they needed to evacuate. By this time, the row of houses one street away had already been evacuated. I could definitely feel that surge of adrenelin that arrives at such moments. I didn't feel overly afraid, but isn't that what adrenelin does for a person? I have to admit, there is something about the whole experience that makes one feel very much alive. (is this why surfing big waves is so fun? Is this why people jump out of airplanes? hmmm...)

Well, you can guess what came next - we were evacuated. We loaded a few belongings and the dog into our cars, got the neighbor to follow us, and made a caravan out of there. Fortunately, Eva has a good friend who kindly gave us shelter across town. Otherwise, we would have been holed up in a high school nearby. Eva's friend and her husband even fed us dinner. It was a welcome sanctuary. We were not able to go back to the house until about 9 pm. When we returned, it was still VERY smoky and you could see the flames, which had now reached the top of the hill across the ravine. It would seem like the flames were ebbing, but then the wind would gust, and the flames would blaze stronger. It made me wonder if coming back to the house was such a good idea.

We kept all the windows shut last night, but I still woke up every few hours to the smell of smoke. My core instincts were telling me to GO!! Finally, at 5 am I gave up on the idea of sleep, and took Pono out to assess the damage. The air was so full of smoke, that it looked like fog. Pono sneezed about 10 times. We didn't go far, but I did brazenly (or stupidly) walk partway down the path toward the ravine. It turns out that the fire made it all the way to the bottom, and you could see the red strip of flame retardant that prevented it from making it to the houses, less than 1,000 ft.(an estimate) away. WHOA. My eyes were swollen, and we were happy to get back inside.

By the time I left, at about 8:30, the smoke had cleared significantly, and we were able to see the extent of the burn. The beautiful hillside I had hiked with Pono is now pretty much charred. There are still a few brave trees standing, but there were flames and smoke right behind them, and who knows if they will endure the inferno. Eva told me this evening that the fire was only about 10% contained, but that it was away from areas with houses, so they felt pretty good about staying in their house. I cautioned them about the smoke, and hopefully the firefighters will make good progress tonite.

All along the way back to Rancho Mirage, I was seeing smoke and charred areas, even right near the road. When I stopped to get a sandwich for lunch, there were 5 firefighters sitting there, waiting for burgers. I tried to talk to them, but they just looked at me through bloodshot eyes and black faces and gave curt replies. They were too tired to even talk to me.

I am safely back in the rental house, still reeling from the events of yesterday and today. Colorado seems light years away, with its afternoon thunderstorms, and the Arkansas river, running right through town. Is this culture shock? Or simply a moment of awakening, realizing that nature can still sneak up on us, even with our cell phones, televisions and satellites, catching us at our most vunerable? Is nature simply trying to get our attention?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Travels with Pono

Pono the dog and I are in Reno, Nevada!! Matthias had a trip to Hong Kong, and his parents invited us up while he was away. So I decided it was a good idea. It gets us out of the heat for a couple of days, and gives us a chance to make the waiting for new house go a bit faster. We left on Friday, and it is about a 9 hour drive from Rancho Mirage to Reno. It is a beautiful drive, but by hour # 8 in the car, Pono was getting a little sick of it. He did very well, despite the long face.

Yesterday, Matthias' mother (Eva) and I went to visit some galleries. I thought there might be one that might help me sell some of my work. There is no one area where the galleries of Reno are are together, so it ended up being a lot of driving around. We didn't have much success, but we had fun, anyway.

Today, we went to the Nevada museum of art. There was a wonderful exhibition of Deborah Butterfield's horses. There is one large one outside the museum, and it looked hungry, so I decided to feed it. The museum is really nice. There is a gallery on the rooftop, and the view from there was wonderful. It looks to me as though they need a couple more sculptures there! I did like the ones they had. The Butterfield exhibition was marvelous. If any of you get a chance to see her work in person, I highly recommend it. Her bronzes look just like they are made of driftwood rather than bronze. Very impressive.

We also took Pono down to the Truckee river this afternoon. He had a great time, chasing sticks into the river, and basically getting everyone else wet and muddy along with him. It cooled him off nicely, and gave us a chance to hang out by the river.

For dinner, Heinz, Eva and I went to the Peppermill casino. If you don't often go into casinos, it is an onslaught to your senses. Lights everywhere, reflected on mirrored ceilings, noises from the slot machines, voices, music, etc. I like the colors of the lights, but if I went in alone, I am sure I would become easily disoriented and lost. I was glad to have experienced locals as guides. It was a fun dinner. Such a nice way to end a wonderful, busy weekend. Thanks Eva and Heinz! Pono and I will be returning to Rancho Mirage on Tuesday.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Grapefruits do grow on trees!

I haven't been much in the mood for writing lately, I guess. I have been busy putting together all of my marketing materials to take to galleries. Now that we are here in a new place (California), I need to find some wonderful place to help me sell my art! I have been printing out digital images of my paintings, and burning other images to disk. I am pretty much "computered out" right now.

I did celebrate another year in my life on Sunday. It was a quiet day, and I was glad Matthias was home to spend time with. He even bought me a tiny cake with coconut for a good, solid birthday sugar fix. YUMMY!!! He only ate one small piece of it, and I am glad it was a small cake, since I managed to polish the rest of it off single-handedly. I am still recovering from the overload.

One thing we have been enjoying immensely here in the Coachella Valley is the fruit. After living in the middle of the continent, and having slim pickings for produce, it has been a welcome change to live in a place where fruit trees grow in our neighbor's yards. There are two citrus trees in the yard here at our rental house, and one pomegranate tree. There is also a tree in a yard nearby where the house stands vacant. It is LOADED with ripe grapefruits! They ripen and fall to the ground to rot. We consider it a neighborly duty to help prevent so much yard debris, so we have taken it upon ourselves to harvest a few of those tree-ripened grapefruits every other day. We usually just juice them. Let me tell you, that is the most amazing grapefruit juice! There are plenty of other yards that are littered with ripe fruit, and it is so hard to walk by, knowing that someone could be enjoying that fruit. There are plenty of birds who do take advantage of the bounty, but I find it really strange that people aren't out there, picking those grapefruits and having fresh-squeezed juice every day. Do they just get sick of it? I couldn't really say.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Pono visits the ocean

Today, we decided to escape the heat, and head for the coast. Pono has never seen the ocean before, and we thought it would be fun to take him to "Dog Beach". We had a few errands to run first, so by the time we got to Dog Beach, it was about 4 pm. The parking lot has meters, and we only had about one hour worth of coins. We put all the coins we had into that meter. Then, we headed down to the sand. There were people and dogs everywhere, but it wasn't overly crowded. Right away, I took off my sandals and headed for the water, with Pono on the leash behind me. He was fine, until he saw the foamy water headed towards him, at which point he leaped into the air and headed up the beach as quickly as he could, dragging me behind him. We walked to a less crowded spot on the beach, so we could let Pono off the leash. It was taking some coaxing on my part to get him in the water. The waves were a little scary!

Fortunately, Matthias had the wisdom to bring a ball. When Pono saw the ball, he forgot all about the terrifying waves. We didn't throw the ball so that he was chasing it into the ocean, but he did manage to get quite wet. We were able to use the ball to lure him in deeper than he would otherwise have gone. Plenty of other dogs came over to us, wanting to play with Pono, but he only had eyes for the ball. Nothing else seemed terribly important. The good thing was that we managed to wear Pono out in the one hour our coins had alloted us.

The water was much warmer than Matthias and I had expected it to be. If we had known it was going to be so warm, we definitely would have brought our suits. (and surfboards!) We both managed to get quite wet. It still felt great.

The only down side to the day happened after we left the beach (fortunately). I think Mr. Pono drank too much ocean water. He got a pretty sick tummy, and had diarrhea when we were walking to the car. He seemed fine after that, so we loaded up, but then about a half hour into the ride home, he threw up. Not good. We had to stop and let him out for some air (and us too!) He did drink water and felt good enough to sleep all the rest of the way home. Hopefully, he will learn not to drink that salt water, because we'd really like to take him back to dog beach again.

There is one other exciting thing I would like to share with you. Earlier this week, I sold two small oil paintings to a designer for the tv show "Las Vegas". Apparently, there is a pretty good chance my paintings will be on television! How cool is that?! If any of you feel like looking for them on the show, these are the two paintings I sold.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I love the public library

Apparently, when you move to a new place, there are a LOT of plastic cards involved. Let me tell you about some of the new cards I have added to my wallet since coming to Rancho Mirage. First, there is the new driver licence. (of course) Then, there is the new bank debit card (which took forEVER to reach me). Then, when I went to buy dog food, I got a Petsmart card (that i didn't want). There is a card for the grocery store, too. The part that I find really interesting, is that many of these cards come in a family, of sorts. There is a big one, for your wallet, and then a baby one, for your keychain. Petsmart gave me one daddy sized card and TWO baby-sized cards. Do they really expect me to put all of these teeny cards on my keychain??? I am NOT going to! Yesterday, I added a libray card to my new collection. I believe it is my favorite card thus far.

The library here in Rancho Mirage is incredible. It looks like it has been designed by some famous architect. (which is very possible, but I don't know anything about famous architects, beyond Frank Lloyd Wright.) The outside grounds are beautifully landscaped with desert plants and large stones. The parking lot is enormous!! There is even a coffee shop inside. (before you go into the library, of course) There is a giant fish tank in the children's section. It has a seperate information desk, too. The lights above the bookcases appear to have motion detectors, because they turn on when you walk underneath them. (that freaked me out a little at first!) When I raved to the man at the check out desk about the library he said, "yes, this library is VERY well funded." No kidding! And of course, the library card comes with a large size and a miniature size. (I have to say that if anyone else tries to give me a plastic card, I might scream. My wallet is starting to look like it has eaten a huge thanksgiving dinner, every day for a month!)

I am happy to have a new library card, because I love to read - novels, mostly - and I am nearly finished with the book on my nightstand. The best part about the library is that you get to read the book, but then you don't have to pack it in a box and MOVE it. You simply RETURN it! This is an extra added bonus for us, at this point in our lives...